DENVER/SEATTLE — Colorado and Washington became the first US states to legalise the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use yesterday in defiance of federal law, setting the stage for a possible showdown with the Obama administration.
But another ballot measure to remove criminal penalties for personal possession and cultivation of recreational cannabis was defeated in Oregon, where significantly less money and campaign organisation was devoted to the cause.
Supporters of a Colorado constitutional amendment legalising marijuana were the first to declare victory, and opponents conceded defeat, after returns showed the measure garnering nearly 53 per cent of the vote versus 47 per cent against.
“Colorado will no longer have laws that steer people toward using alcohol, and adults will be free to use marijuana instead if that is what they prefer. And we will be better off as a society because of it,” said Mason Tvert, co-director of the Colorado pro-legalisation campaign.
The Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocacy group that backed the initiatives, said the outcome in Washington and Colorado reflected growing national support for liberalized pot laws, citing a Gallup poll last year that found 50 percent of Americans favoured making it legal, versus 46 opposed.
Supporters of Washington state’s pot legalisation initiative declared victory after the Seattle Times and other media projected a win for marijuana proponents.
Early returns showed pro-legalisation votes led with 55 per cent versus to 44 per cent opposed with about 60 per cent of ballots tallied in the state’s all-mail-in election system.
The outcomes in Colorado and Washington, which already have laws on the books legalising marijuana for medical purposes, put both states in further conflict with the federal government, which classifies cannabis as an illegal narcotic. (Reuters)